Business-like universitiesEfforts to turn national universities into corporations are likely to proceed at full speed. Lee Jang-moo, president of Seoul National University, said a committee to develop national universities into corporations would be formed next month to realize a plan to make Seoul National University a corporation.
In 1987, a government consultative body on educational reform advised the government to turn national universities into corporations. For more than 20 years, the issue lay fallow, but finally, concrete moves are under way. Although belated, we hope that Seoul National University’s measure will initiate change.
Under the current system, national universities have restrictions on management and it is difficult for universities to survive global competition.
If a national university becomes a corporation, it will be free from government intervention and the university president will have broad authority and responsibility in governing the university.
However, there are many obstacles. First of all, staff at national universities, including faculty members, oppose the move. They are worried that once they lose their status as civil servants, their tenure won’t be guaranteed or their pensions would be reduced.
The government must guarantee that faculty will remain employed after universities become corporations, and universities must persuade the staff of the need for change.
University staff should also abandon old habits and thoughts.
There is a worry that if universities become corporations, basic studies that don’t lead to profit-making business will go under and even disappear.
Universities must present measures to refute this concern. Schools must provide plans to make contributions to education and research ?? the basic functions of universities.
Four years ago in Japan, 87 national universities became corporations and became independent. As they reduced costs, made money from patents and earned more research grants, the 87 university corporations made 71.6 billion yen ($660 million) in profits.
We must not delay any further and turn our national universities into corporations. Seoul National University must take the lead and other national universities must follow.
The government must prepare related laws and ordinances. There is no longer space for universities afraid to have autonomy and compete with others.